Box office preview: 'Lone Survivor' set to SEAL an easy victory

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Two testosterone-fueled action pics will flex their muscles at the box office this weekend, but only one will win in this arm wrestling contest. Navy SEAL tale Lone Survivor is poised to become the year’s first breakout hit, while the Kellan Lutz vehicle The Legend of Hercules is set to become its first true bomb. Three Oscar contenders — August: Osage County, Inside Llewyn Davis, and Her — are all getting nationwide expansions as well. Here’s how the frame may play out:

1. Lone Survivor – $27 million
Mark Wahlberg has become a reliable box office draw in recent years, driving films like Contraband and 2 Guns to solid openings in the mid-$20 million range. The star’s new war film, based on the hugely popular book by former SEAL Marcus Luttrell, should have no trouble topping the box office in its first outing in wide release. Universal has played up Luttrell’s involvement in the film, showcasing it as a patriotic endeavor that re-creates the real story of the disastrous 2005 Afghanistan mission Operation Red Wings, which left only Luttrell alive.

Lone Survivor could play much like the last real-SEAL movie to storm the box office, Act of Valor, which opened with $24.5 million in 2012 en route to a $70 million total. Tracking for Lone Survivor, which cost Universal $40 million, is solid, and it should play very well in the heartland of America. Fandango reports that the Pete Berg-directed film accounts for 51 percent of all ticket sales heading into this weekend, and in over 2,700 theaters, Lone Survivor may pull in a strong $27 million — primarily from its core demographic of young men.

2. Frozen – $14 million
Disney’s animated smash crossed the $300 million mark this week, and it’s not slowing down anytime soon. The sister tale may drop by about 35 percent from last weekend to $14 million, giving the icy hit a dazzling $317 million total.

3. The Wolf of Wall Street – $9 million
The Martin Scorsese picture has climbed to the top of the chart during weekdays, but it won’t be able to take down Frozen or Lone Survivor during the weekend. The Leonardo DiCaprio-starring romp, which cost a whopping $100 million, is holding up relatively well week-to-week. Another 30 percent drop would give the film about $9 million for the weekend and $79 million total — a respectable, but nothing that’s going to make Wall Street clamor with excitement.

4. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – $8.2 million
Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth adventure is likely headed down by about 45 percent this weekend to $8 million. The blockbuster will have about $242 million total by the end of the grame.

5. Her – $8 million
Expanding into 1,729 theaters, the Joaquin Phoneix film about a man in love with his electronic device, could become a minor hit in its first weekend in wide release, thanks to a massive swell of late-in-the-game awards buzz. Her, which was directed by Spike Jonze, could dial up around $8 million this weekend — a pretty good achievement for such a strange story.

Outside the Top 5, Summit’s Kellan Lutz mythology tale The Legend of Hercules, which Millennium Pictures produced for a reported $70 million, isn’t likely to pull in godlike numbers, despite opening in wide release. Hercules could start with an anemic $7 million. Expanding titles Inside Llewyn Davis and August Osage County both may finish the weekend with about $5 million.


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